“What shall we pray about today?” Perhaps your congregation is used to hearing such a phrase in worship on a regular basis. Many congregations have a regular time of sharing “joys and concerns” during worship. But for others, it seems like an intrusion on the order of worship; and should the attempt be made, there would be an uncomfortable silence. Yet scripturally, we know we are called to pray for one another. How can we do that without hearing what the needs might be, or where the hurts are?
How can you create space in your worship for a sharing of these concerns? Yes, there is a danger that it might get out of control, as people who finally find an audience monopolize the time over various aches and pains. So, what could be done? Some congregations use prayer cards, where worshipers write out their requests. Sometimes these are brought forward or gathered up and read out loud or by a prayer team.
Job speaks his prayers out loud in our text for this week. He shares his brokenness and mostly his feeling that God is not listening any longer. Worship, while directed toward God, should also provide the gathered with the sense that they are heard, that they matter to God and to the church. It really does not take much to let folks know that they matter. Some way of letting them be heard is a great beginning. Then a way to follow up: “How are you with . . . ?” let’s them know that they were remembered. Here again the compassionate listeners or Stephen Ministers can be a vital part of this worship experience.
Even our hymnody can be a help to the theme of being heard by God. Songs that let them know they are God’s mind and in God’s hands help confirm this idea that even when they have no sense of being heard, our faith says that God is listening. Singing of God’s active participation in the lives of those who love God can be a powerful witness.
There is also scope to extend the invitation to be heard beyond the designated worship time. Provide a space to gather before worship for a more intimate sharing of prayer concerns or invite those who desire to stay after and gather near the rail or in a conference room for more prayer and conversation. It might be an opportunity to enter into pastoral care where needed. In this way, worship flows into the life of the community as a whole. What other ways can you find to make that connection between worship and daily life? What practices can be offered that worshipers can carry with them as they leave the worship time to sustain their awareness of God’s presence in their lives? How do you continually ask, “What shall we pray about today?”
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.